The World Economic Forum’s new immersive technology center to address climate tipping points
The World Economic Forum today introduced a new Polar Tipping Points Center in the Global Collaboration Village. The purpose-driven platform, powered by next-generation technology, will bring world leaders together in a transformed world to solve the profound impacts of the climate and nature crisis. The center is an immersive virtual reality space and will help address the pressing issue of climate tipping points, especially those in the polar regions.
The launch of the center coincides with the annual minimum extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic, adding timely confirmation of the urgent need to address polar warming and climate challenges, and accelerate progress towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The ability to simulate tipping points at different temperatures in real time can help speed up the decision-making process.
“Passing planetary tipping points will have dire consequences for the interconnected ecosystems that support life on our planet,” said Jim Huai Niu, Managing Director and Head of the Center for Nature and Climate at the World Economic Forum. “By understanding the drivers and impacts, the global community can respond more effectively to the climate and nature crisis. By working together, business and government can innovate, mitigate and adapt to the risks associated with rising global temperatures and the resulting tipping points in the polar regions and beyond.”
Highlighting the urgency of polar warming
Anthropogenic global warming, with the world approaching and exceeding 1.5°C, is dangerously close to triggering several critical polar tipping points. Of the 16 climate tipping points, six are in particularly risky situations, even with temperatures rising below 2 degrees Celsius. Five of these tipping points are located in the polar regions, which include the Arctic and Antarctica. This situation has far-reaching global implications.
The interconnectedness of polar tipping points, with the potential to disrupt interconnected Earth systems, can lead to stability challenges across geographic regions. This includes the albedo effect, which relates to the reflectivity of surfaces. High albedo reflects more sunlight, while low albedo absorbs it, affecting climate and temperature. In other words, the albedo of the snow and ice layer reflects heat away from the Earth and prevents it from further warming the oceans and land (including permafrost). This albedo effect is reduced by polar ice and snow loss.
There is also a long-term linear relationship between human-induced carbon dioxide emissions and Arctic sea ice decline, which means that as emissions increase, sea ice will continue to decline. This decline is accelerating global vulnerabilities such as extreme weather, heat stress, threats to food and water security, climate migration, and supply chain disruptions.
An advanced visualization and collaboration platform
Within the Global Collaboration Village, a World Economic Forum initiative in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft, the Polar Tipping Points Hub offers an immersive experience that allows collaborators to visualize the ramifications of polar warming on Earth’s complex systems. Through the observation station, visitors gain a deeper look at three of the five pivotal polar tipping points that become perilous if temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius or more.
This initiative serves the dual purpose of enhancing awareness and facilitating cross-sector collaboration between village partners and existing forum communities. The Center is a work in progress, constantly incorporating new data to ensure it remains at the forefront of polar and climate research.
“At the World Economic Forum, our core mission is to bring together stakeholders to solve problems collaboratively, to improve the state of the world,” said Rebecca Ivey, Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Collaboration Village. “The Village democratizes this process by using immersive technologies that enable us to achieve more together, even across distances. Our goal is to make these tools accessible to diverse audiences, increasing their ability to contribute to improving the world.”
Partnering for a resilient future
The launch of the Polar Critical Points Center aligns closely with the Forum’s commitment to addressing global challenges through coordinated initiatives. A virtual immersion in the polar regions will illustrate current global warming trends and the consequent range of risks, providing a vital tool for understanding the urgent need for united action.
“The ability to connect and collaborate in shared immersive spaces, spanning distances and devices, can inspire team creativity and outcomes that might not otherwise be possible,” said Navjot Virk, vice president of Microsoft Mesh. “Global Collaboration Village’s Polar Tipping Points Center demonstrates how people can leverage immersive experiences built on Microsoft Mesh technology to better see and understand the complex, interconnected challenges of global issues, like climate change.”
“Through the Global Collaboration Village’s Polar Tipping Points Hub, citizens, organizations and government representatives have the opportunity to experience and address the consequences of climate change, one of the world’s most pressing challenges,” added David Treat, co-president of Accenture’s Metaverse. Continuing business group. “We believe that by simulating future scenarios, immersive technology can lead to a shift in perspective while bringing stakeholders together in new ways to collaborate and formulate potential solutions, which is exactly what led us to partner with the World Economic Forum for the Global Collaboration Village initiative.”
Collaboration on new and combined datasets from Arctic Basecamp, NASA, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and other institutions has also been instrumental in developing the center.